Where one thriving historic Westerly business had a successful run back in the day another has repurposed to expand its recent steady growth.
The name for Grey Sail Brewing of Rhode Island on Canal Street was born out of owners Alan and Jen Brinton and their oldest daughter, Grace and her affinity for food and playing in the kitchen, similar to the young Cataldo family members of The Westerly Macaroni Factory that shared the same location as Grey Sail decades earlier.
“The name started as Grace ale from our oldest daughter when she was young, she has this thing about food and playing in the kitchen, it was a household name,” said Jen. “It transitioned into grey sail – the sailing theme for coastal and we wanted to be tied to Westerly and the community but someday be regional. Its all-encompassing coastal from RI and has a family tie.”
The energetic couple who both had full-time jobs before Grey Sail, with Jen in the pharmaceutical industry and Alan a homebrewer and chemical engineer, they started planning their business on their 10th anniversary and with Jenn was seven months pregnant with their fourth child they both agreed to move forward with their dream.
“We said ‘let’s do it, this is a cool spot.’ The building became available and it worked out for us,” said Jenn.
This husband-wife team along with their dedicated staff and brew masters have experienced phenomenal growth since opening their beer brewing business in 2009 going from producing 7,000 barrels of beer a year to 15,000.
With the launch of their IPA Captain’s Daughter in 2014, which helped to grow their brand market, expanding their market distribution, and dedicated staff Jen attributes their growth and success to all of that.
“Our growth has been about the people that have been here, I cannot say enough good things about everybody. Without any one of those pieces, I don’t know what would have been, We are at a happy point now and have room to grow a little more.”
And grow they will set to launch a new spirit line to include first vodka and gin and then potentially whiskey and bourbon, set to start expanding onto their distilling building space in the Spring of 2019. The garages outside will get a new roof connecting that space to the brewery and glass doors will be added so people can see into the distillery and the beer brewing process.
The last couple of years Grey Sail has set its sails on a more efficient brewery operation and packaging going from 30 cases being packaged to now 120 cases per hour. Jen says she really trusts her staff. “We are excited about things, I love that they are comfortable. They want to see it grow and we are excited about that.”
Visitors coming to Grey Sail can purchase their favorite beer of choice or local sodas and wines from the Growler Room and then venture over to the beer garden for pizza, music, and outside games. The yellow house located next to the brewery welcomes guests into the Tap Room which is decorated with original murals on the walls downstairs dating back to the 1930s that the Cataldo family had artists from Italy come in to paint.
“We are keeping the murals, for us, it’s been fun.”
The granddaughters of the Cataldo family who had lived in the house decades ago came to visit bringing with them original photos of what the house looked like before it was the tap room.
“One of the granddaughters went into the kitchen and put her hand on the old stove and remembered her grandmother cooking on it with the light that still works, it’s amazing to hear all the stories, it’s the best part,” says Jen. “It makes it kind of cool and we are glad we were able to preserve it and run a business. another family member saw the picture of this place and they stopped by and like a kid in a candy store, she told me the history of the house, she went upstairs – saw the kitchen and said we use to eat breakfast there.”
And just as the original family lived and thrived with their pasta-making business, Grey Sail Brewing of Rhode Island has come full circle with the couples kids taking an active interest in being a part of the family business. Their son worked there this past summer as well as their daughter.
“Now the kids appreciate it and the community has been really really good,” says Jen. “We are part of the community and we are a tourist draw, whereas 80 percent of the people who visit come from outside of the state, they do a brewery tour, stay a bit, then visit a restaurant and the parks, our goal is to make sure we are supportive of businesses that help us. That is how we have come to be.”